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Vision to reconsider corporate and union donations

Vision Vancouver, the party that in 2007 called for a ban on corporate and union donations to local political campaigns, is poised to back away from that position at a meeting scheduled for next week.

In a report to council released yesterday, an electoral reform sub-committee advised Vancouver City Council as follows:

"On the issue of union and corporate donations, the Committee believes that rather than banning them outright, as is the case at the federal level, that the Province should implement a donation limit. A strict ban on union and corporate donations could make it very difficult to run effective election campaigns in both highly populated areas as well as large rural municipalities."

The committee includes Coun. Suzanne Anton of the Non-Partisan Association, Coun. Ellen Woodsworth of the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) and Coun. George Chow of the ruling Vision Vancouver party. The committee’s draft recommendations will form the basis for a submission to the Provincial Local Government Elections Task Force, which has asked for comments on these issues by April 15, 2010.

ThinkCity chair Neil Monckton called on Vision to honor its 2007 pledge.

“The Vision Vancouver councilors called for a total ban on corporate and union campaign donations in 2007,” Monckton told The Tyee. “We hope the Vision councilors will again call for a total ban, as they did when they were in opposition.”

The report to council also endorsed a shift from three- to four-year municipal election cycles, and recommended that the city ask the province for legislative authority to adopt an alternate voting process, such as proportional representation.

Among the other recommendations to be considered by council on March 23:

* Set limits on the annual amount of contributions that can be given by an individual or organization to an elector organization, campaign organizer, or an individual seeking elected office, similar to those at the federal level

* Limit the amount of money that may be spent annually by an elector organization, campaign organizer, or an individual seeking elected office during a general local election campaign, similar to those at the provincial and federal level

* Disallow contributions to an elector organization, campaign organizer, or an individual seeking elected office, from sources outside of Canada

* Require that all donations and expenses for candidates, elected officials and elector organizations be disclosed on a continuous basis at six month intervals

* Implement a system of tax credits for municipal donations, similar to those for provincial and federal elections

* Change the definition of “candidate” to include anyone seeking nomination within an elector organization for candidacy to a local government office

* Appoint the Provincial Chief Election Officer to oversee municipal elections in BC, and establish penalties and mechanisms for enforcement of offences under the amended local government elections legislation

* Oppose allowing corporations the right to vote in local elections

* Provide local governments with the authority to use any method of elections they wish to use, and repeal the requirement for Lieutenant Governor in Council approval to adopt such a change

* Amend the definition of election offenses and related penalties to include individuals acting as an intermediary in third-party campaign contribution schemes

The report to council also notes that six years later, only two of the 23 recommendations made by the Vancouver Electoral Reform Commission have been acted on by the province. That commission was headed by former Supreme Court judge Thomas Berger.

Monte Paulsen reports for The Tyee.

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